Wednesday, January 6, 2010

How Many Calories Did You REALLY Burn?

I hate counting calories. If it works for you, do it, but it just doesn't seem natural to me. I really don't want to get into any debates about calorie counting because I know that that's the route most of you take. But I decided to give you some information on how many calories you're actually burning when you exercise.

I have a stationary bike and an elliptical trainer at home, both made by Tunturi. If you're a short person, I highly recommend this brand. At 4'10", these machines fit me to a T. And like all exercise equipment, my bike and elliptical tell me how many calories I've burned. Or do they?

I can't remember where I read this, but the calorie read-out that you get from your exercise equipment is VERY, VERY approximate. The machine is calibrated to calculate how much an average man who weighs--I don't know--let's say 150 pounds or so would burn. When I read bloggers who say that the 30 minutes on the bike netted them x calories burned, I just have to wonder...because most (if not all of them) aren't 150-pound men.

If you MUST know how many calories you've burned during your work-out, try this site: and compare it to what the machine said. If you're using a super-duper machine that lets you input your weight, the calculation will probably be much more accurate. If not, the information that you get could just be a load of hooey.

Just as an example, according to the fitwatch tracker, a 130-pound person will burn 341 calories using the elliptical trainer at a moderate pace for 30 minutes, while a 200-pound person will burn 524 calories. Furthermore, muscle cells burn more calories than fat cells and men are more muscular than women--even fat men.

So exercise because you want to, because you feel better when you do and because you know it's good for you. Just don't believe the calorie counter.


  1. Again, you are hitting that nail right on the head for me!
    Without sounding too flakey, or something,
    where do the calories "go?"
    I guess they go into a time and space beyond the event horizon - where time "goes," and socks from the dryer.
    Except for calories sometimes return!

  2. I find the calorie calculation industry laughable, because it's so inaccurate and because our bodies are not machines. I think the whole premise of calories is outdated and antiquated - there is a lot more going on in our bodies than calorie counting.

  3. Oh you are SO right!! Although I have daily calorie goal for my workout , that is only an indication of how much exercise I have done - and also how hard I have worked. I prefer to reach my goal in 40 minutes max. If I can do it in 30 fantastic, if it takes me an hour then I am not trying hard enough.

    The wii fit calorie rating may (I emphasise MAY) be more accurate because they take your weight into account (and it weighs you every day!) but it is still only a ROUGH guide to how many calories you MAY have used up in your exercise.

  4. On this one, we agree! I have no clue if I burned calories or not during my two walks today at the pace of snail (34 weeks pregnant). However, I did feel calmer after my walks, I felt like I had "achieved" something. Maybe it was not enough, I don't care. I moved more than some people did today, I know that! :)